Tests Every Homeschooler Should Know

homeschool testsOne concern for many families homeschooling high school is keeping track of the necessary testing required for college admissions. You may have heard of a long list of college tests: SAT, ACT, PSAT, AP, and CLEP. Fortunately, not every student will need to take every one of these tests. As a homeschooler you should carefully plan your college testing strategy based on the unique needs and goals of your student. Here’s a quick run-down on the most popular tests.

Most college-bound students take either the SAT or the competitor test, the ACT. All colleges equally accept either test. The SAT is a digital test consisting of two sections – math and reading and writing.  The test is two hours and 14 minutes long. The test costs $60, and extra fees are charged for services such as late registration and sending scores to colleges.  The first section of the digital SAT tracks the student performance and then adapts subsequent tests based on the student’s performance on the first sections. Students who do well in the first section will be offered harder questions and the possibility of earning a higher score. SAT registration for homeschoolers is available online.  SATs are offered on school day testing and Saturday testing.

The ACT is an alternative to the SAT. Most college-bound students will take one or the other. Colleges accept these tests equally and do not consider one better than the other.  The ACT is just shorter than three hours long. It is offered in both digital and paper versions. The ACT features four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science.  Students can earn a score from one to 36 on each of these sections. The four section scores are averaged to give a composite score. The ACT test is offered at local schools and costs about $65. To register, visit the ACT website. 

The PSAT/NMSQT is the practice SAT test and the qualifying test for the National Merit Competition. Many homeschoolers are interested in the test for the possibility of scholarship awards. The year that counts for scholarships is junior year, but some students take the test for additional practice in 9th and 10th grade.

Colleges do not see these scores, so they are just for students to gain testing experience and identify what areas they need to work on before they take the SAT. The test consists of three sections – Math, Critical Reading, and Writing Skills. The test is under three hours long, and there is no essay. It is offered in October each year, and homeschoolers register through their local public or private school. Costs vary slightly as schools can charge an administrative fee, but the total cost will be under $20.

Advanced Placement (AP)
These tests, offered by the College Board, allow students to demonstrate academic achievement and mastery of core content. Currently, around 40 tests are available covering specific courses in subject areas, including English, math, science, social science, foreign language, computer science, and arts.

Most exams are a combination of multiple-choice and written responses. Homeschoolers can use AP tests to provide evidence of academic achievement, which is especially important for colleges with selective admissions. Also, some colleges will provide college credit for higher scores on the test. Homeschoolers can take an AP class online, or they may self-study for APs.

APs cost around $100 per test and are only offered once a year in May. Homeschoolers need to be aware of the registration procedures. Unlike some tests where homeschoolers can register online, for APs, students must work through a local public or private school to obtain a seat. A few states require public schools to offer homeschoolers seats for AP tests, but most do not. In some communities, finding a place to test can be difficult or impossible.  Finding a testing site for less common exams such as foreign languages or art history can be especially difficult. It can also be more challenging for students with disability accommodations. The College Board does not guarantee homeschoolers access to AP exam test sites.

The College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
exams are offered through the College Board. These tests are meant to demonstrate college-level equivalency knowledge in subject areas. Thirty-four exams are offered in five subject areas. Some colleges will accept scores on these exams as the basis for granting college credit. With some exceptions, CLEP tests are all multiple-choice exams offered on the computer.

Homeschoolers may take at local test centers often located at community college. Tests run around $90 and may have an additional local test center fee. CLEP registration information is available online. CLEP is getting a lot of buzz in some homeschool circles due to the popularity of online degree programs based largely on credit by exam. CLEP tests are rarely helpful for highly selective college admissions, but can be a useful way for students attending less selective colleges to earn credits or meet some basic core requirements.


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